A Passion for Paddling

August 30, 2012, 12:35 AM HST
* Updated September 8, 7:14 PM
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This Labor Day weekend, the world’s largest long distance outrigger canoe paddling competition takes place along the Kona Coast.

Kailua, Keauhou, Kealakekua and Honaunau Bay will be the beautiful backdrops to the athleticism and stamina of over 2,500 men, women, teens and tweens. The Queen Liliuokalani Race draws a crowd from around the world.

On Saturday September 1, events begin at 7:30 a.m. with the women paddling single hulled canoes across 18 miles of deep blue from Kailua Bay to Honaunau. The men then make the same 18-mile return trip back to Kailua Bay.

Throughout the day teams will race, then gather for their awards at Kamakahonu Bay near King Kamehameha Kona Beach Hotel at 3:30 p.m.

Ahu’ena Heiau at the King Kamehameha Kona Beach Hotel, photo by Kristin Hashimoto

Then take part in a torchlight parade party around dusk from Hale Halawai Center to the Kailua Pier.


Take to the streets and have some fun, as Ali’i Drive will be closed off during the parade.


Later, party at the Steinlager Beer Garden at the King Kamehameha Kona Beach Hotel from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Sunday begins early with single person canoes and double-hulled canoes gliding through the water. Stand up paddle boarders and keiki competitors will also take part in the action from 7:30 a.m.

Stand up paddle boarder, courtesy image from Wikimedia Commons.

Awards will be presented at 2 p.m. at the Old Airport Events Pavillion.


Labor Day brings a grueling Ali’i Challenge with 12-person crews in single hulled canoes.

Teams of six men and six women  paddle 17.5 miles and trek on land for another half-mile to complete three tasks as a team.

The race begins at 9:30 a.m.

The Kamakahonu Beach race site fronts the King Kamehameha Kona Beach Hotel located at 75-5660 Palani Road in Kailua-Kona. For more details visit


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